cover image Dead Money

Dead Money

Srinath Adiga. Central Avenue, $16.99 trade paper (416p) ISBN 978-1-77168-216-9

A memorable premise lifts Adiga’s impressive debut. In 2002, Hong Kong con man Raymond Li, deeply in debt to a vicious Triad leader, hits on a unique scam to recoup his losses and save his skin. After reading a book on Chinese mythology, Li creates Afterlife Dollars, a fictional currency that can be used after death, to be purchased in exchange for real money by the gullible and superstitious. He launches an aggressive marketing campaign, complete with ad slogans (“Life Insurance Is No Good to You When You’re Dead”), a guide for the salespeople he hires (“Do Afterlife dollars really exist? The answer depends on you. If you project confidence, then the customer will believe you”), and guarantees that deposits are backed by the Afterlife Central Bank, run by “entities in the afterlife.” After a wicked plot twist, the action shifts to two other major players, one in Mumbai, the other in Amsterdam. Adiga makes the central conceit work as he effectively sends up the tendency of people to believe anything. Fans of political satire will be pleased. Agent: Linda Migalti, Susan Schulman Literary. (Jan.)